The critical care team is a group of specially trained caregivers who work in a special area of the hospital known as the intensive care unit, or ICU. They come from many professions and can help very ill patients get better. The care team often teach the patient and family strategies that improve health and well-being.
Members of the team usually include one or more of these caregivers:
Intensivist: A medical doctor who has studied, trained, and tested in caring for very ill patients. The intensivist is often an expert in one of these areas:
- Internal medicine
Critical care nurse: A highly skilled nurse who provides all aspects of care for a very ill patient. This nurse helps all of the people involved in that care talk to one another. He or she has close contact with the patient and family and can often uphold the patient's wishes. The critical care nurse becomes an important part of decision-making with the patient, the family and the care team.
A registered nurse (RN) who is certified in critical care is known as a CCRN. CCRNs are certified by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.
Pharmacist: An expert in drugs who works with the care team to prescribe drugs the patient needs. The pharmacist checks the progress of these drugs during the patient's stay in the hospital.
Registered dietitian: A caregiver trained and licensed in nutrition and illness. The registered dietitian works with the care team and the family to improve the health of the patient who lacks nutrients. The registered dietitian can lead or perform feedings by mouth, tube or vein.
Respiratory therapist: A caregiver who has special knowledge and practice in healing patients with breathing problems. The respiratory therapist uses lung treatments to help the patient breathe.
Physical therapist: A caregiver who helps restore a function of the body that involves the muscles, bones, tissues or nerves. With this help, the patient can better move around in daily life (for example, walking, going up and down the stairs). The physical therapist uses techniques such as stretching and applying heat. These techniques can reduce pain and swelling. They can also prevent permanent physical disability.
Occupational therapist: A caregiver who helps the patient relearn life skills. Examples of these skills include grooming, feeding, dressing and balancing a checkbook. The occupational therapist helps the patient live as independently as possible.
Chaplain: A clergy member in the hospital who talks with patients, families and staff. The chaplain provides spiritual support and may help find a clergy member of the patient’s faith to better meet the patient’s spiritual needs. Often the chaplain plays an important role in end-of-life care.
Members of the team may also include:
Physician assistant or nurse practitioner: A caregiver trained and licensed in clinical services. He or she works in the ICU under the doctor’s lead. Examples of what the physician assistant and nurse practitioner can do include:
- Take the patient's medical history
- Order and interpret medical tests
- Perform medical procedures
They are often the "first responders" to changes in the patient's health.
Child life specialist: An expert in child development who works with ill children. The child life specialist provides play and distraction therapy. He or she often works with other experts in the pediatric intensive care unit, or PICU, to improve the health and well-being of very ill children.